“This is why, in a nutshell, advice is overrated. I can tell you something, and it’s got a limited chance of making its way into your brain’s hippocampus, the region that encodes memory. If I can ask you a question and you generate the answer yourself, the odds increase substantially.”
― Michael Bungay Stanier, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
Facilitating a conversation is a highly technical skill. For some reason, I thought I could “facilitate” learning with no advanced training in the field. I worked with an award-winning facilitator once I realized my shortcomings. She candidly told me that many people think they facilitate conversations or adult learning but that’s not what they actually do–they just give advice.
Facilitation is the art of creating environments and processes that make learning accessible and personalized. There is no sage on the stage in the room or in the conversation. This isn’t to say there isn’t a place for knowledge transfer. It’s just going to look different as you facilitate the learning instead of deliver the learning.
Facilitating is asking the right questions in a safe environment with the appropriate experiential methods so “a-ha” moments happen naturally. If you manage to “say less and ask more,” as Michael Bungay Stanier suggests in his book The Coaching Habit, real change can happen.
Facilitation is asking questions that cause people to reflect on themselves or an experience. Giving them advice on what they should be doing in the workplace or classroom isn’t.
Here are a few places to start your journey with facilitation processes.
Be intentional about each aspect of the learning experience. One method we really like is the HRDQ model for experiential design. It allows a facilitator to focus time and attention where the participants need it. If you are new to facilitating or design, it provides a framework for clarity. Once you become more skilled, it will seem more natural and you can modify it as needed.
The purpose of these articles is to offer support. Our goal is to serve those who are in the shoes we once were. Reach out to us with any and all questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. No gimmicks. It’s free.
Ross Herdina, Co-Founder, Agile Ideas Leadership.